Tuesday, June 20, 2017

20170619 News Releases

Registration of casinos’ internal security units with PNP-SOSIA pushed

House members are seeking to strengthen the competency of the internal security units of casinos in the country through their registration with the Philippine National Police (PNP) Supervisory Office for Security and Investigation Agencies (SOSIA).

The proposal cropped up during the second hearing jointly conducted by the House committees on public order and safety, games and amusements, and tourism chaired, respectively, by Reps. Romeo Acop (2nd District, Antipolo City), Gus Tambunting (2nd District, Parañaque City), and Lucy Torres-Gomez (4th District, Leyte) on the Resorts World Manila tragedy.

Acop cited the need to strengthen the competency of the internal security units of all licensed casino establishments in the country in light of the security lapses that led to the loss of 37 lives during the attack on RWM last June 2.

During the two hearings, the lawmakers agreed the tragedy has put the skill and competency of RWM internal security under question.

Acop proposed to the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) to register the internal security units of all licensed casino operators with the PNP-SOSIA.

“If we come up with (such) a legislation, would PAGCOR not disagree with this?” Acop said.

PAGCOR vice president Roderick Consolacion supported Acop’s proposal. “Definitely not, your honor,” said Consolacion.

Acop, a lawyer and former head of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) also queried on the recovery of firearms inside room 510 of RWM. The firearms are now for ballistic examination.

Among the questions raised by Acop pertained to the: correct number of firearms found inside room 510; to whom such firearms were registered; and the precise circumstances as to why a firearm registered to the Taguig City government was questionably found inside the room.

Rep. Rozzano Rufino B. Biazon (Lone District, Muntinlupa City) inquired on the ‘misencounter’ between the PNP Special Weapons and Tactics team (SWAT) and the RWM Special Reaction Team (SRT) leader Bernard Cajigas.

According to Biazon, the RWM manual states: “There are procedures that are to be followed by its personnel whenever law enforcement personnel enter its premises during a crisis.”

Hence, Biazon said the RWM should perform its responsibility to conduct drills in accordance with what is written in its manual.

“If they had been doing their jobs in training their personnel and drilling them properly, then that misencounter would not have happened,” said Biazon.

Biazon also inquired about the fire safety inspection certificate (FSIC) issued to RWM. According to lawyer Ma. Georgina Alvarez, RWM chief legal officer, the valid FSIC issued to their establishment extends to their casino.

However, Biazon noted that “on more than one instance, the PEZA (Philippine Economic Zone Authority) said that their fire safety inspection certificate does not cover the casino.” Moreover, PEZA Dir. Gen. Charito Plaza supported this by stating that casinos cannot be accredited under the PEZA’s mandate, and such also applies to Solaire Resort and Casino.

Biazon said the issue has raised ‘confusion’ as to who has the authority to implement the fire code of the country that is being arrogated by PEZA upon itself.

“It is our firm belief that the Bureau of Fire (BFP) has the authority,” said Biazon. He said the PEZA is prohibited from issuing FSIC without a memorandum of agreement with the BFP.

“It is our position that the law passed by Congress in 2008 is the one that is prevailing over the law of PEZA which was passed a decade before the fire code,” Biazon said.

On another issue, Acop asked PAGCOR whether the establishment of a casino near an airport was a ‘wise decision’ and if the construction of the bridge way connecting the casino and the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 was necessary considering issues on safety precautions. (30) JMC

Vargas seeks to expand coverage of paternity leave act

Recognizing the need to strengthen the values and morale of the Filipino family, Quezon City Representative Alfred Vargas filed House Bill 5353 which seeks to strengthen the Republic Act (R.A.) No. 8187 or the Paternity Leave Act of 1996.

 “The Paternity Leave Act was enacted by Congress in recognition of the husband’s role in providing care for his wife before, during, and after the birth of their child. However, the law is still inadequate in addressing the necessities of the Filipino family,” said Vargas.

Vargas also cited the benefits of paternity leave.

“Fathers who take paternity leave are more likely to take an active role in child-care tasks, therefore establishing strong relationships with their children and inciting active involvement in their lives. Also, the early father-child interaction has long-term benefits for a child’s learning abilities,” he stressed.

Vargas also pointed out that employers also benefit in providing their workers with a paternity leave policy.

“Such policies help companies attract the best and the brightest people to their human resource,” said Vargas.

The bill seeks to amend R.A. 8187 and grant paternity leave to all married male employees, regardless of the nature of employment, and lengthen the leave period from 7 days to 15 days. It also gives eligible employees an option to extend their paternity leave to 15 days more, without pay. It also includes a provision that the leave shall not be deducted from the employee’s annual leave credits.

“Amending the Paternity Leave Act will ensure that every Filipino family reaps all these benefits,” Vargas said.

Statement of Rep RUFFY BIAZON regarding the establishment of additional Veterans Memorial Hospitals outside Metro Manila

The government should prioritize the establishment of a Veterans Hospital in three areas outside Metro Manila where the Veterans Memorial Medical Center is located in order to service not just the veterans who have easy access to the VMMC due to their place of residence but also to serve as a tertiary care hospital for those in the active service who are wounded in military operations in the provinces.

This was the statement of Muntinlupa Representative Ruffy Biazon, Vice-Chair of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs and Welfare after the committee visited VMMC in Quezon City for a briefing and ocular inspection of its facilities.

During the visit, the VMMC administration presented to the committee members led by its Chair, Rep. Pol Bataoil, the current situation and the issues concerning the only veterans medical facility in the country which provides service to around 450,000 veterans and their dependents.

While the VMMC building was erected after World War II, it boasts of state-of-art equipment and services such as a fully automated laboratory, MRI and CT Scan machines, a well equipped physical therapy and rehabilitation center which houses the only in-door heated therapy pool in the country and an ICU wing and dialysis center which are comparable to those in private hospitals.

“Clearly, the veterans are now better off than they were years ago in terms of medical treatment”, Biazon observed.

Biazon, who is also the Senior Vice Chair of the Committee on Defense and Security as well as Defense Sub-committee chair of the Committee on Appropriations, noted that a lot of the improvements particularly the medical equipment were results of the assistance from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs which gave grants and donations for equipment such as the MRI, CT Scan and laboratory machines.  Unfortunately, the assistance has been terminated recently.

“But with all these improvements, not all veterans are able to avail of the services of the VMMC simply because of access. That’s why we support the proposal for the VMMC to have outlying branches in three other areas around the country----North Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao”, said Rep. Biazon.

He joined the call of the VMMC and PVAO for the establishment of these hospitals beginning with the one in Mindanao, which already has a proposed site specified. A parcel of land has been donated by Phividec in Laguindingan near Cagayan De Oro City.

“The Marawi campaign could serve as a catalyst for the establishment of the hospital”, Biazon said. He pointed out the current situation where the seriously wounded soldiers from the battle of Marawi still had to be airlifted to Manila to get life-saving trauma services and urgent medical care.

“Putting up a VMMC in Mindanao will address the needs of veterans and those in the active service who are wounded in action. It’s an investment that will show our appreciation for those who have served the country in the past and our support for those who are continuing to fight enemies of the state in the present”, Biazon explained.

With an ongoing peace and order and military campaign in Mindanao which may go on for the next years to come, Rep. Biazon stressed the need for the government to establish the facility, which has been estimated to cost a total of P1.8 Billion covering construction to commencement of operations.

“It’s an amount that is feasible for the administration to invest in. It doesn’t have to be spent in one go. It can be appropriated in tranches. In this time of sympathy and appreciation for our Armed Forces, let’s put our money where our mouths are and show them we really care”, Biazon concluded.

20170620 News Releases

DFA, stand by with Pinoy crew of ACX Crystal

Malacanang urged to form a task group to help the all-Pinoy crew facing probe

As Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I (Rep Salvador Belaro, Jr., 1-Ang Edukasyon Party-list) urge Malacanang to form a task group, led by the Department of Foreign Affairs, to coordinate and ensure effective and timely action on the ongoing investigation into the deadly collision between the ACX Crystal and the US Navy destroyer USS Fitzgerald.

Maritime disaster investigations are complex matters. The task group ought to have experts from the Philippine Coast Guard, the Marina, the POEA, and from the Philippine private sector shipping industry to give the the needed support to the DFA-led task group.

I also urge the DFA to provide continuing and timely public updates, daily as much as possible, about the status of the Filipino crew of the ACX Crystal and of the investigation into the midsea incident between the ACX Crystal and the USS Fitzgerald,

The Philippine-flagged container cargo ship collided with the USS Fitzgerald on June 17 (Philippine Time).

A report by the global news agency Reuters said it took the ACX Crystal almost an hour before reporting the collision to authorities.

Here are some excerpts from the Reuters report:

"The collision happened at around 1:30 a.m. but it was not until 2:25 a.m. that the container ship informed the Japanese coastguard of the accident, said coastguard spokesman Takeshi Aikawa told Reuters."

"He declined to elaborate on why the ship took nearly an hour to report the accident but said it could take ships time to notify authorities as they dealt with more urgent matters."

"Right after being notified of he accident by the container vessel, the Japanese coastguard made contact with the U.S. ship and confirmed it, Aikawa said."

According to NYK Line, charterer of the ACX Crystal, the ship captain is Ronald Advincula and the ship, built in 2008, is owned by the Dainichi-Invest Corporation.

NYK said in a new release it and the shipowner "are fully cooperating with an investigation being conducted by the Japan Coast Guard. More information will be provided when known."

The ACX Crystal is now docked at Tokyo Bay at the No. 6 berth of the Oi Terminal. According to the DFA, "all crew have been instructed to remain onboard pending their interview by Japanese authorities."

We want to be further assured by the DFA that the Filipino crew of the ACX Crystal have proper legal assistance from our Philippine government, not just the lawyers of their manning agency, NYK Line, or Dainichi-Invest Corporation.

The US Navy ship sustained "extensive damage and flooding" as per US Navy Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin.

The US Navy has reported casualties and has identified them pending notification of their families. We pray for the crew of the USS Fitzgerald and their families and friends.

The US Navy also said the collision will be investigated by the US Navy and the US Coast Guard. (END)

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Congress need not sit down immediately to discuss Martial Law proclamation--Alvarez

Office of the President
of the Philippines

Manila, May 24, 2017


House of Representatives Batasan Hills, Quezon City


I have the honor to transmit for your information and guidance, a certified copy of Proclamation No. 216 dated May 23, 2017 entitled


Thank you.

M-128 Mabini Hall, Malacanang, Manila Trunkline 784-4286 loc. 4029/ 4123/ 4153



WHEREAS, Proclamation No. 55, series of 2016, was issued on 04 September 2016 declaring a state of national emergency on account of lawless violence in Mindanao;

WHEREAS, Section 18, Article VII of the Constitution provides that ilx x x In case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it, he (the President) may, for a period not exceeding sixty days, suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law x x x'1;

WHEREAS, Article 134 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by R.A, No, 6968, provides that “the crime of rebellion or insurrection is committed by rising and taking arms against the Government for the purpose of removing from the allegiance to said Government or its laws, the territory of the Republic of the Philippines or any part thereof, of any body of land, naval or other armed forces, or depriving the Chief Executive or the Legislature, wholly or partially, of any of their powers or prerogatives";

WHEREAS, part of the reasons for the issuance of Proclamation No. 55 was the series of violent acts committed by the Maute terrorist group such as the attack on the military outpost in Butig, Lanao del Sur in February 2016, killing and wounding several soldiers, and the mass jailbreak in Marawi City in August 2016, freeing their arrested comrades and other detainees;

WHEREAS, today, 23 May 2017, the same Maute terrorist group has taken over a hospital in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, established several checkpoints within the City, burned down certain government and private facilities and inflicted casualties on the part of Government forces, and started flying the flag of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in several areas, thereby openly attempting to remove from the allegiance to the Philippine Government this part of Mindanao and deprive the Chief Executive of his powers and prerogatives to enforce the laws of the land and to maintain public order and safety in Mindanao, constituting the crime of rebellion; and

WHEREAS, this recent attack shows the capability of the Maute group and other rebel groups to sow terror, and cause death and damage to property not only in Lanao del Sur but also in other parts of Mindanao.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, RODRIGO ROA DUTERTE, President of the Republic of the Philippines, by virtue of the powers vested in me by the Constitution and by law, do hereby proclaim, as follows:

SECTION 1. There is hereby declared a state of martial law in the Mindanao group of islands for a period not exceeding sixty days, effective as of the date hereof.

SECTION 2. The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall likewise be suspended in the aforesaid area for the duration of the state of martial law.

DONE in the Russian Federation, this 23rci day of May in the year of our Lord, Two Thousand and Seventeen.

By the President:

Executive Secretary

PRRD 2016 – 002570

Congress need not sit down immediately to discuss
Martial Law proclamation--Alvarez

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez today said it is not necessary for Congress to immediately conduct a session to discuss President Rodrigo Duterte’s proclamation placing the entire island of Mindanao under martial law.

Around 10:26 p.m. Wednesday night, the office of Alvarez received from Malacañang a copy of Duterte’s Proclamation No. 216, declaring a state of martial law and suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the whole of Mindanao.

 In a radio interview, Alvarez said the House leadership held a meeting Wednesday in anticipation of the submission of Malacañang’s report on the declaration of martial law. Under the Constitution, the President has 48 hours from the time of the declaration of martial law to submit a report to Congress, whether in person or in writing. 

 “Ngayon, kung ito ay i-report niya personally, we have to convene Congress para tanggapin at pakinggan yung kanyang report. Pero kung ito ay gagawin niya in writing, hindi na kailangan na mag-convene kami agad-agad, unless mayroong desisyon yung mga miyembro na kailangang mag-convene kami at pag-usapan yung kanyang report,” Alvarez explained.
Alvarez said he is flying to Davao today for a meeting with Duterte.

 According to Alvarez the proclamation of martial law would be in effect for a period of 60 days unless Congress decides to either shorten or extend the period.
However, Alvarez said there is nothing in the Constitution that requires Congress to sit down immediately after the President has submitted his report on the declaration of martial law.

“Wala po akong nakitang ganoong nakalathala sa ating Konstitusyon,” Alvarez said.
He said the House would likely tackle the martial law proclamation in its session next week.
“May session naman ang Kongreso hanggang next week at puwede po natin mailahad para talakayin iyan,” Alvarez said.

The Speaker said an agreement was reached yesterday among the lawmakers, particularly those from Mindanao, to allow them to go to their respective districts to get first-hand information on the situation on the ground and provide assistance to their constituents who need help.

Alvarez reiterated that the public should not be alarmed over possible abuses because it is clear that despite the declartion of martial law, the Constitution remains in effect, and that  the courts as well as civilian authorities continue to function.

He said that while the violence erupted only in Marawi City it is necessary to place the entire Mindanao under martial law to allow authorities to pursue terrorists who would likely flee to adjacent areas.

Meanwhile, Alvarez also clarified that the martial law declaration is not only directed against Muslim terrorists.

“Hindi po natin sini-single out yung mga terorista na naniniwala sa relihiyon ng Islam, hindi po. Lahat po ng terorista ay kasama po dito na ina-address ng ating administrasyon. Hindi lang itong Maute group, hindi lang po yung Abu Sayyaf, kundi lahat po ng naghahasik po ng terrorism sa buong Mindanao,” Alvarez said. ###
Bills on donating leftovers to help fight poverty, food wastage
The House special committee on food security has opened discussions on two bills requiring restaurants to donate to charitable institutions leftover foods still fit for consumption.
House Bill (HB) 4675 or the proposed “Mandatory Food Surplus Donation Act of 2016” authored by Reps. John Marvin “Yul Servo” Nieto (3rd District, Manila) and Edward Vera-Perez Maceda (4th District, Manila) and HB 2496 or ”An Act Providing for a System of Redistributing and Recycling Food Surplus to Promote Food Security” authored by  Rep. Conrado M. Estrella III (Party-list, ABONO) both seek to help fight poverty and reduce food wastage, according to Rep. Leo Rafael M. Cueva (2nd District, Negros Occidental), chair of the committee.
Nieto and Maceda cited a recent survey by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) that found the country’s malnutrition rate among aged zero to two years old to be at 26.2 percent, the highest in 10 years.
They also quoted an official government data which says that more than 26 million Filipinos are poor, with more than 12 million living in extreme poverty and lacking the means to feed themselves.
Their bill also covers all supermarkets, hotels, fast food chains and other food establishments. The bill imposes a punishment of “imprisonment of at six months and one day to  six years, or a  fine of at least P10,000 to P100,000 on a person or corporation found violating the Act.
The bill is in consonance with the State policy of upholding “a just and dynamic social order that will ensure the prosperity and independence of the nation and free the people from poverty through policies that provide adequate social services, promote full employment, a rising standard or living, and an improved quality of life for all.”
Meanwhile, Estrella explained that his HB 2496 aims to safeguard food security, end hunger, and promote the efficient use of the country’s food resources.”
The measure also orders food-related businesses/establishments to donate to the concerned government agencies surplus foods that are no longer suitable for human consumption, to be used as organic fertilizer.
The bill requires leftover donors to submit a report to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and Department of Science and Technology (DOST) on the amount (in tons) of their edible and inedible food waste and the manner of its disposal; to enter into a contract with food banks, “non-profit, charitable or other social mission-oriented organizations that distribute food” to the poor and hungry; to shoulder the cost of transporting edible food surplus to the food bank’s warehouse or distribution center, and inedible food surplus to waste management sites; to ensure that edible food surplus is in good condition, in accordance with the standard set by the DENR, Department of Agriculture (DA), and DOST; and to enter into a contract with waste management and recycling enterprises to recycle inedible food surplus into fertilizers or compost.
The measure seeks to impose a fine of P500,000 up to P5 million on any person and/or private or public establishment who makes edible food left-over unfit for consumption, and/or prevent the redirection of edible food surplus to food banks or inedible food surplus to waste management and recycling establishments.
It also seeks to grant tax incentive to establishments which donated edible food surplus to food banks and inedible food waste for use as fertilizers in farms. #
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